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Healthier School Eating – What Can We Do?

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Jenna Walters, Staff Writer

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It goes without saying that the growing rate of obesity in America is one of the most important issues facing us today. Since 1980, the percentage of obese children aged 6-11 has doubled and the percentage of obese adolescents aged 12-19 has tripled. Childhood obesity has both immediate and long term health impacts! As the obesity rate in children grows, schools and school lunches just make the epidemic worse. What can we do to make school lunches healthier and provide kids with better nutrition?

First off, let’s take a look at how times have changed. In an article by Jane E. Brody “Attacking the obesity epidemic by first figuring out its case”, the author states that to bring Americans’ weight back to the 1978 levels, steep reductions in calorie intake are needed. On top of that Alice Waters and Katrina Heron, authors of “No lunch left behind”, state that schools in America have a “long list of options that include high-fat, low-grade meats and cheeses and processed foods like chicken nuggets and pizza.” Since these unhealthy and high-fat/low-grade foods are being served in schools, we are not helping the obesity rates in children but making them way worse.

Another point worth noting is that schools could play a big part in preventing childhood obesity. To start, about 95% of children are enrolled in schooling (Center for Disease Control). Since children spend an average of 8 grueling hours in the school system, they have the opportunity to eat their two meals (breakfast and lunch) and are given the option to be physically active at school. School is also an ideal setting to teach young people about healthy eating and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

Thirdly, it’s also important to look at and understand the effects of obesity on children. In some communities, almost half of pediatric diabetes are type 2 diabetes which was previously only believed to affect adults. In a large study done, 61% of obese 5-10-year-old’s are already at high risk for heart disease and 26% had two or more high risk factors for the disease. Obese children are also at greater risk for social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor to low self-esteem. Yet, we still let our kids eat anything they want without any type of control or moderation on their diet. So are we killing our kids or is society killing our kids by providing bad food choices? Although there is not exact blame set on anyone, we could start to make that change.

Finally, if we want to prevent anything that constitutes obesity in the future, we need to put our foot down and make a change. The best place to start with that change could be our schools and what they serve to children. How we can change the schools’ demeanor on what is served to our children and how to help the obesity epidemic is different for each person who has considered this problem, but here’s what I propose we do – we could change the schools’ activity and nutrition policy. These policies determine how often students endure physical activity or what goes into the schools’ vending machines. This also constitutes what topics are taught to children and what is being served in the cafeteria. We could also implement an educational class in health and wellness. Health and wellness classes show children essential healthy eating habits and also encourage physical activity. The most effective way we could fix the obesity epidemic in kids is increasing the opportunities kids play or exercise, but this just doesn’t go for those are athletically inclined, it goes for all students so they can begin to enjoying walking or enjoying recess or maybe extending it ten more minutes. We also should have physical activity clubs for students of all exercise levels. The last way we could help would be by implementing a quality school meal program, kids would be served healthy and fresh produce and one type of sweet as dessert.

All things considered – schools need to take action to what they are serving to our children because they are not helping the obesity problem in the U.S. – they are only adding to the problem. Many things need to change, but we need to start in schools and move from there.

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Healthier School Eating – What Can We Do?